Hong Kong violence breaks out again in shopping centres
Police make arrests and use pepper spray as flashmobs and vandalism break out
Hong Kong police used pepper spray and made arrests on Sunday as small groups of black-clad pro-democracy protesters targeted some of the city’s shopping centres, ending a rare lull in violence.
Flashmob protests and vandalism broke out in several locations. Riot police responded with pepper spray in at least two shopping centres as members of the public heckled them.
A secondary school girl and a 16-year-old boy were arrested in a Sha Tin mall, the pair shouting out their details as officers led them away.
Earlier in the afternoon an elderly woman was knocked over in the same shopping centre after a fight broke out when a shopper tried to stop protesters spraying graffiti.
Masked activists had also trashed restaurants run by Maxim’s, a catering firm that has become a frequent target because its owner’s daughter has criticised the pro-democracy movement.
The skirmishes were the first in three weeks. Hong Kong has been upended by six months of pro-democracy protests, violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.
Pro-democracy parties won a landslide victory in local council elections last month. Last Sunday an estimated 800,000 people marched peacefully through the streets.
But public anger remains, with no sign of further concessions from Beijing or Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, despite the election success.
Lam is in Beijing for an annual visit and is due to meet President Xi Jinping on Monday.
The protests were ignited by a now scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, and they evolved into a revolt against Chinese rule. Among the movement’s demands is an independent inquiry into the police and fully free elections.
In a separate protest, around 1,000 people waving Chinese flags rallied in a park on Sunday afternoon in support of Hong Kong’s police force.
The protests, coupled with the trade war have hammered the economy and helped tip Hong Kong into recession as tourists stay away.
On Sunday its airport reported its steepest drop in passengers in a decade, down 16% in November compared with the same month the year before.